Over the years, you’ve heard differing opinions about what not to do during pregnancy. Some seem more obvious, while others have no true medical backing. We’re going to take a look at seven of these common fertility faux pas and either confirm or debunk them.

Can I Take Fertility Drugs and Drink Alcohol at the Same Time?

It is best to limit alcohol consumption while taking fertility drugs or receiving fertility treatments. While trying to start a family, it’s hard to know exactly when you’ll get pregnant. Depending on when you conceive it can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for you to realize you’re pregnant. During this time, alcohol consumption can be harmful to the beginning stages of pregnancy. We advise cutting alcohol out of your diet as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Routine use of alcohol leads to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) as well as premature birth, low birth weight, and possibly miscarriage.

1 in 20 US school children may have FASDs infographic

It is the consensus of most healthcare professionals that no amount of alcohol can be considered safe in pregnancy. Here are some tips for quitting drinking during pregnancy.

Is Alcohol After IUI or IVF Allowed?

It is not recommended to drink alcohol after IUI or IVF is performed. Some theorize that drinking 1 or 2 alcoholic beverages per day has no adverse effect on fertility, but no scientific backing proves this theory. Unfortunately, there are many confounding variables in this type of research. We suggest that you ask your physician for their recommendations.

VERDICT: FICTION

Does Stress Impact Getting Pregnant?

We know the journey to fertility is not an easy process. If are struggling with stress, try engaging in meditation, light to moderate exercise, and even therapy or support groups if you are overwhelmed during this process. Feeling emotionally supported during this journey is vital to your overall health. Many patients are able to reduce stress by simply becoming more knowledgeable about fertility. In addition to providing physician counseling, we ask our patients to read and become more educated, thereby empowering them to have more control over their own journey. View our fertility glossary or watch our educational videos to learn from our doctors. More information is available at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine website.

Psychological Stress

It is well known that infertility and fertility treatment are associated with significant stress, but research on stress directly impacting fertility is inconclusive. Studies evaluating stress levels in relationship to becoming pregnant lead to contradictory findings. Many of these survey-based assessments evaluate hormonal markers, relaxation techniques such as acupuncture, psychotherapy, and exercise in relationship to stress and fertility. Overall, research from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine suggest that there is little relationship between stress and infertility, and stress does not decrease the overall chance of conceiving a pregnancy. However, patients struggling with infertility definitely still need significant emotional support throughout this journey.

Physical Stress

Studies show that women who run more than 20 miles per week may experience abnormalities in their menstrual cycle, which may affect their fertility. Women who run marathons or compete at a very high physical level commonly have ovulatory dysfunction and infertility. While irregular periods can pose a challenge to getting pregnant, there’s no evidence skipped periods earlier in life means you won’t be able to conceive later. “The reason some people who have [amenorrhea] are infertile is usually because they haven’t changed their behaviors,” sports endocrinologist Kathryn Ackerman, M.D., M.P.H. says.

“But when I’ve had patients who are all in, they have a goal of trying to get healthy and get their [menstrual] cycle back, they usually do pretty well.” – sports endocrinologist Kathryn Ackerman, M.D., M.P.H.

VERDICT: FACT & FICTION

Can Smoking Cause Infertility?

Smoking is definitely tied to decreased fertility rates. Ovaries and internal organs are affected by smoking, which can lead to higher rates of miscarriage. In IVF patients, smoking is known to dramatically lower chances of a successful treatment. Smoking also directly affects sperm quality in men, diminishing both sperm count and motility. If you are undergoing fertility treatment or already pregnant, we ask that you stop smoking immediately for the health of you and your family.

In the United States, about 30% of reproductive-age women and 35% of reproductive-age men smoke cigarettes. While we are well aware of the dangers of smoking to our overall health (lung cancer, respiratory disease, etc.), the effects of smoking on fertility is rarely addressed. Check out the chart below to see the public’s knowledge on smoking risks related to fertility.

chart of public knowledge of smoking risks

How Long After Quitting Smoking Does Male Fertility Improve?

Three months is a reasonable amount of time to see fertility improvements in men after quitting smoking. Going without smoking for this amount of time should allow for a full cycle of sperm to mature. Dominion Fertility offers semen analysis assessments to men to understand the current condition of their semen.

How Long After Quitting Smoking Does Egg Quality Improve?

Delay in conception for a 12-month period was noted to be 54% higher in women who smoked according to an American Society for Reproductive Medicine study. Smoking for women leads to decreased egg quality and quality and overall fertility rates.

There is evidence that smoking is also associated with an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and early menopause. Also, smokers require almost twice the number of IVF attempts to conceive than nonsmokers. Long story short – if you want to become pregnant and have a higher chance at carrying a baby to full term, then quit smoking.

VERDICT: FACT

Should I Avoid BPA During Pregnancy?

We suggest avoiding BPA (bisphenol-A), a chemical most commonly found in plastics and canned food lining, as it is associated with an increased risk for miscarriage. In a study conducted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, researchers found that women with higher BPA levels had an 80% greater chance of miscarriage compared to those with lower levels. BPAs are known to increase the chance of miscarriage, and can decrease fertility rates for men. Make sure that you are using a BPA free water bottle, and avoid heating your food in plastic containers.

products that contain BPA graphic

VERDICT: FACT

Can Being Overweight Affect Fertility?

Infertility is more prevalent among obese couples. There’s also a higher likelihood for early pregnancy loss and obstetrical complications. Many obese women have irregular or absent menstrual cycles. For many of these individuals, weight reduction alone will restore their normal ovulation and menstrual cycles and enhance their fertility potential. Often, these individuals will spontaneously conceive with no medical therapy once they have reduced their weight. In a study conducted by the J Turk Ger Gynecol Association, it was found that both obesity and infertility cause psychological stress in couples. As fertility specialists, we routinely offer counseling on weight loss as part of our treatment plan. Fad or crash diets are not recommended for fertility patients, as these practices can be harmful for your overall health.

Does Being Overweight Affect IUI or IVF Treatments?

Prior to performing IVF, we discuss the impact of obesity on IVF success rates at great length with our patients. We recommend that obese patients—defined as those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 29—reduce their weight prior to becoming pregnant. Sometimes it takes 2 to 6 months of weight reduction to reach a healthy weight prior to planned IVF treatment. Regardless of the type of treatment planned, weight loss can have a dramatically enhance the chance of a successful pregnancy.

VERDICT: FACT

Does Drinking Coffee or Caffeine Affect Fertility?

Coffee drinkers will be happy to hear that small amounts of caffeine are generally shown to have no effect on fertility. Consumption of limited amounts of caffeine appears to be safe when attempting to conceive. Drinking 1 to 2 cups of coffee or similar amounts of caffeinated beverages per day does not decrease a woman’s chances for getting pregnant, either naturally or with any of the infertility treatments available.

Can I Drink Caffeine Once I’m Pregnant?

Once pregnancy occurs, limited caffeine consumption may continue without any effects to the fetus. According to an American Pregnancy Association study, limit your caffeine intake to 200mg per day, or one 12oz cup. It is not recommended to drink excessive amounts of caffeine while attempting to get pregnant or during pregnancy.

VERDICT: FACT & FICTION

Are Eating Fish and Fertility Levels Correlated?

Most people avoid seafood while pregnant because of high mercury content. A study published in the Endocrine Society looked at multiple couples who consumed seafood 2 times a week, 4 ounces at a time. These couples had higher fertility rates than those who did not consume seafood. Not all seafood contains high levels of mercury, but make sure you are purchasing high-quality seafood from a reputable source.

Should I Take Fish Oil for Fertility?

Fish oil is often taken as a supplement to add more Omega-3 to the US diet. It is believed that omega-3 may help improve egg quality and lower inflammation. Overall, omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that your body needs but can’t produce. It is necessary to get this fatty acid from proper nutrition. Healthy levels of vitamins and minerals are important for anyone’s fertility process.

VERDICT: FACT & FICTION 

If you have any more questions about improving your chances of fertility, schedule a consultation or for more information about commonly asked questions see our video resources.

This blog was reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Susan Sarajari.